ESPN’s next 30 for 30 installment zeroes in on a story that might not be all that familiar to many. The Dominican Dream will premiere April 30, and it’s directed by Jonathan Hock (whose directing credits include previous 30 for 30 installments Survive and Advance, One and Not Done, Of Miracles and Men and The Best That Never Was, plus the “ESPN Films Presents” installment Unguarded). It focuses on Felipe López.
López played amateur basketball in the Dominican Republic, then immigrated to the U.S. at 14 with his family. He became one of the top high-school prospects in the country and received a massive amount of buzz (including labels of “The Spanish Michael Jordan” and the above Sports Illustrated cover, from Nov. 28, 1994), but then found some struggles in college at St. John’s and then in the NBA. The Dominican Dream will look at all that, but also at how López has found success outside the sports realm. It will premiere on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 9 p.m. Eastern on April 30, the first time the network has done a simultaneous premiere like that. Here’s more on the film from ESPN’s release:
“What drew me to the story of Felipe Lopez and his family is that it’s a success story disguised as a story of failure and disappointment, said director Jonathan Hock. “It’s a classic American immigrant tale that shows that – even if you’re hailed as ‘The Dominican Michael Jordan’ and pictured like a superhero on the cover of Sports Illustrated – true success in life is something much greater than being the best at playing a game.”
The film, which will screen at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April, features interviews with Dominican former baseball player Alex Rodriguez, former basketball players Chauncey Billups, Chris Mullin, famed sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro and more.
“Jon Hock has an unbelievable knack for finding stories we all think we remember, but hardly appreciated until he unearthed the full stories of their humanity and vulnerability,” said ESPN Films vice president and executive producer Libby Geist. “Felipe’s story of success on the court is a great one, but his impact on the Dominican community and what he still represents to so many is something I didn’t grasp until seeing the film. We can’t wait to share this story with our audience.”
It seems fitting that it’s Hock directing this one, as there look to be some parallels with The Best That Never Was and Unguarded. Both of those films covered high school phenoms (Marcus Dupree and Chris Herren respectively) who battled challenges in college and the pros and were seen as not living up to their potential. And some of the most interesting 30 for 30s have been on lesser-known stories like this, so there’s certainly some potential here. But there can be a challenge in attracting an audience for a film based on a not-as-recognizable name, especially in an era where there’s so much content out there. We’ll see how this one does.